Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Daily Headlines: October 6, 2015

* Latin America: Representatives of the Peruvian, Chilean and Mexican governments expressed their satisfaction over the signing yesterday of the twelve-nation Trans Pacific Partnership free trade pact.

* El Salvador: The number of massacres in El Salvador has spiked so far this year though its unknown if it’s related to rampant gang violence.

* Bolivia: Bolivian authorities reached an agreement with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to ease the granting of special visas to Syrian refugees.

* Chile: Officials in Chile announced the creation of the largest marine reserve in the Americas that covers 115,000 square miles around the Desventuradas Islands.

YouTube Source – CNN

Online Sources – InSight Crime, The Financial Times, National Geographic, Xinhua

Monday, October 5, 2015

Daily Headlines: October 5, 2015

* Brazil: The Supreme Court gave police permission to question ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as a witness regarding a major bribery scandal at Petrobras that has implicated members of the Brazil’s political and business elite.

* Colombia: In a span of less than a week, Colombian law enforcement killed two of the country's most dangerous drug capos known by the aliases of Pijarvey and Megateo.

* Nicaragua: Could delays arise in the construction of a new interoceanic canal after one of the project's main investors, Chinese telecom magnate Wang Jing, lost 85% of his assets so far this year?

* Argentina: Several candidates assailed poll frontrunner and ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli for skipping out on Argentina’s first-ever televised presidential debate.

YouTube Source – AFP (Video uploaded on August 2015).

Online Sources – Fox News Latino, Colombia Reports, The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg, Reuters

Friday, October 2, 2015

Daily Headlines: October 2, 2015

* Central America: The confessed head of a Guatemalan customs fraud gang incriminated former President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti, while proceedings began in the corruption trial of the former vice president of the Honduran legislature.

* U.S.: Last night convicted serial killer Alfredo Prieto became the first death row inmate in Virginia  to be executed by lethal injection since 2011.

* Haiti: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was deposed from the Haitian presidency in 1996 and 2004, broke his four-year public silence to back presidential candidate Maryse Narcisse.

* Ecuador: Ecuador’s economy contracted for the second straight quarter and, thus, has officially fallen into a recession for the second time since 2009.

YouTube Source – CCTV America

Online Sources – InSight Crime, Jurist, NDTV, Bloomberg, The Washington Post

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Daily Headlines: October 1, 2015

* Nicaragua: A planned interoceanic canal crossing Nicaragua is “fraught with risks and uncertainties” according to a social and environmental report commissioned by the Chinese firm in charge of construction.

* Chile: Chilean business groups backed President Michelle Bachelet’s proposal to decrease federal spending in 2016 by more than half compared to this year.

* Brazil: Five policemen in Rio de Janeiro were arrested after a viral video showed one of the officers apparently planting a firearm over the gunned down corpse of a seventeen-year-old.

* Mexico: Mexican authorities extradited thirteen alleged drug traffickers including Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez, the suspected chief of the Beltran Leyva Cartel.

YouTube Source – PBS NewsHour (Video uploaded in April 2015).

Online Sources – Reuters, Bloomberg, Vice News, BBC News

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Daily Headlines: September 30, 2015

* Peru: A thirty-day state of emergency was declared for Peru’s Apurimac region after at least four people died in violent anti-mining protests.

* Argentina: The Argentine government accused the U.S. of failing to cooperate with them in locating an ex-intelligence chief who may have been involved in the mysterious death of top prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

* Puerto Rico: The U.S. Congress is apparently hesitant over allowing Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy on its $72 million public debt despite a push by the island’s officials.

* Brazil: In the latest negative sign for Brazil’s economy, the 8.6% unemployment registered between May and July was the highest since the monthly rate in August 2009.

YouTube Source – teleSUR English (“The US$7.4 billion Chinese-Australian owned copper mining project in Challhuahuacho in Arequipa province has been criticized for its effects on the environment.”)

Online Sources – UPI, Latin American Herald Tribune, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, CNBC

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Argentinian President Skips Falklands Dispute in U.N. Speech

Leaders from Latin American and the Caribbean discussed familiar topics on their respective countries during this week’s U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) session. Raul Castro blasted the U.S. embargo against Cuba, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff pledged stronger steps to protect the environment, and Juan Manuel Santos lauded latest efforts in the Colombian peace process. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina on Monday referred to problems like “vulture funds” and the AMIA bombing case but omitted a major topic for her government: the diplomatic tug-of-war with Britain over the disputed Falkland Islands.

Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman claimed in a radio interview this morning that Kirchner was hampered by time limits and, hence, unable to mention the Falklands issue. But that explanation doesn’t seem to pass the smell test, thus, here are five other possible reasons why CFK left out “Las Malvinas” from her UNGA address:
  • Numerous Latin American leaders spoke out at the UNGA   
While Kirchner did not breach the Falklands topic, several other Latin American leaders expressed their support for dialogue over the sovereignty of the disputed archipelago. “The ‘Malvinas’ belong to Argentina and Latin America,” declared Bolivia’s Evo Morales prior to Kirchner’s intervention while Castro expressed his “solidarity” with the Kirchner regime. Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro also gave their backing to Kirchner who may have decided to allow other regional heads of state to speak on her behalf regarding the Falklands.
  • U.N. ambivalence over Argentina’s case
Kirchner has repeatedly appealed to the U.N. regarding her country’s claim to the Falklands and call for a dialogue with Britain. In 2012 she criticized Britain's “colonialist” legacy while her 2014 UNGA speech pushed for reform of the Security Council body. The Decolonization Committee last year passed a resolution via consensus pushing for bilateral talks but thus far little else has been accomplished at the U.N. Perhaps Kirchner felt there was no need to bring up the Falklands once again to a largely ambivalent body.

Daily Headlines: September 29, 2015

* Venezuela: The heated diplomatic crisis between Guyana and Venezuela stemming from offshore oil finds thawed after leaders of both states agreed to restore their respective ambassadors.

* Colombia:I was very happy and felt like I was part of it,” Pope Francis admitted yesterday over the transitional justice pact agreed upon by the Colombian government and FARC.

* Latin America: A new Pew Research Center survey found that a plurality of respondents view immigrants from Africa and Latin America favorably and more Asians than Latin Americans will migrate to the U.S. by 2065.

* U.S.: Salvadoran-born convicted serial killer Alfredo Prieto could soon become the first death row inmate to be executed in Virginia since January 2013.

YouTube Source – CCTV America

Online Sources – Reuters, The Latin Americanist, NPR, UPI, The Guardian

Monday, September 28, 2015

Daily Headlines: September 28, 2015

* Chile: Chile’s Foreign Minister rejected negotiating with Bolivia over the landlocked nation’s claim of access to the sea days after the International Court of Justice agreed to settle the territorial dispute.

* South America: Indigenous communities in countries like Peru, Colombia and Ecuador have accused groups that promote ayahuasca tourism of exploiting scared customs and shamelessly putting visitors at risk.

* Brazil: Residents of Rio de Janeiro’s Caju favela marched last week against alleged police abuse in the case of an eleven-year-old boy killed under unclear circumstances.

* Honduras: President Juan Hernandez will allow the U.N. to open a human rights ombudsman's office in Honduras with the aim of monitoring possible future violations by state security agents.

YouTube Source – Ruptly TV

Online Sources – Al Jazeera America, Yahoo News, Latin American Herald Tribune, Reuters

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pope Francis Urges Youth, Migrants to “Dream”

During his speech at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Pope Francis urged political leaders to view migrants in a more benevolent manner and help youth "not to turn their back on our neighbors." Francis continued to speak favorably on immigrants during a visit to a catholic school in New York City earlier today.

The pontiff acknowledged the difficulties recently arrived migrants may have to be in a different country including learning "a new language...a new culture." Yet he praised those who open their arms to migrants and help accommodate them amid new surroundings.

"We find new friends...who open doors for us and show us their care and understanding," he said to an of some 150 refugees helped by Catholic Charities in New York.

"(They) help us not feel like strangers, like foreigners. They make us feel at home though our imagination may sometimes lead us to recall our homeland."

The Pope cited the late Rev. Martin Luther King's iconic "I Have a Dream" speech  and urged the audience at the Lady Queen of Angels in Harlem  to strive for their goals.

"All of you here, big and small, have a right to dream. I’m pleased that you find in your fellow students and teachers the ability to do so".

Francis, who was no stranger to celebrating with children when he served as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was overjoyed as he encouraged a student chorus to sing louder for him. he viewed with an apparent wide-eyed curiosity at other pupils who showed him various school projects. The Pope even joked that he was sorry to take away time from teachers and gave students "homework": "pray for me so I can help spread the joy of Jesus' love."

Daily Headlines: September 25, 2015

* Venezuela: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said that he would meet with his Guyanese counterpart, David Granger, at the U.N. in order to discuss a bilateral border dispute related to offshore oil fields.

* Colombian: Human rights group Amnesty International expressed guarded optimism over a transitional justice deal signed on Wednesday by the Colombian government and FARC rebels.

* Costa Rica: Costa Rica is typically referred to as the “Switzerland of Central America” but the country is facing a spike in crime that could include over 500 homicides by the end of 2015.

* Latin America: Gallup's Law and Order Index for the sixth straight year showed, “residents of Latin America and the Caribbean in 2014 were the least likely in the world to feel secure in their communities.”

YouTube Source – AFP (“Venezuelan Army officials (last July) held a military parade 90 kilometers away from the border with Guyana, amid an escalating border dispute between the two nations after a significant offshore oil find.”)

Online Sources – NBC News, Amnesty International, The Latin Americanist, Gallup, InSight Crime

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pope Francis: Migrants Are “People”, Not “Numbers”

Pope Francis strongly advocated for immigrants while speaking at a historic speech during a joint session of the U.S. Congress earlier today.

Reiterating the reference to himself as the “son of an immigrant family”, the Argentine-born pontiff reminded attendees that most of them also “descended from immigrants. He urged the audience of legislators, officials and guests to let go of their “fear” against foreigners, and to view migrants including those from Latin America as “persons” rather than “numbers”.

“We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our ‘neighbors’ and everything around us,” said Francis in English. “Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best”.

The Pope invoked the Golden Rule as a “yardstick” in which people should measure their treatment of others including immigrants and refugees.

“Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves,” he observed.

For Andrea Cristina Mercado, co-director of the “We Belong Together” group of 100 female pilgrims who traveled to Washington, the pontiff’s comments were meaningful and very significant.

Daily Headlines: September 24, 2015

* Mexico: Parents of some of the 43 missing (and possibly killed) Ayotzinapa college students who disappeared nearly one year ago went on a hunger strike.

* Central America: The expanded Panama Canal is still scheduled to reopen next April despite multiple setbacks, while the start of construction on a Nicaraguan interoceanic waterway has been delayed to early 2016.

* Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico’s debt-ridden economy may explain why the number of residents who left the island for the U.S. mainland in 2014 spiked by 31% to a record 64,000 people.

* Argentina: Canadian mining firm Barrick’s operations in Argentina were partially suspended following the spill of some 35,000 cubic feet of cyanide.

YouTube Source – EFE

Online Sources – ABC News, Fox News Latino, Latin American Herald Tribune, HIS Maritime,
Yahoo News

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Colombian Government, FARC Agree to Deadline for Peace Deal

The bloody and brutal decades-long armed conflict in Colombia could soon come to an end after the country’s government and FARC rebels set the date for a final peace agreement.

“The head of the FARC secretariat and I have agree that negotiations must end and a final accord must be signed in six months at the latest,” declared Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos from Havana at a press conference where he appeared with his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, and FARC top commander Rodrigo Londoño, alias Timochenko.

On top of the March 23, 2016 deadline Santos announced that Colombia’s oldest guerilla army has until May 23rd of next year to lay down their arms.

“It will not be a simple task because there are still points that need to be agreed upon,” noted Santos though he optimistically emphasized, “the hour peace is at hand.”

The representatives from the guarantor countries of the peace talks, Dag Nylander of Norway and Rodolfo Benitez of Cuba, also noted that the government and FARC agreed to a partial accord on a transitional justice scheme if a peace deal becomes a reality.

A special court will be created where FARC members as well as Colombian state security agents, military and civilian collaborators can be put on trial for war-related crimes.  Among the charges to be considered by the tribunal are crimes against humanity, genocide, rape, extrajudicial killings, forced displacement and recruitment of child soldiers. Those accused who accept their charges can receive punishments of between five to eight years in prison under special conditions and arrange for reparations to the victims of their crimes.

For those who reject the charges against them, however, the deal established a prosecution phase where they could be imprisoned for up to twenty years without any judicial concessions.

Daily Headlines: September 23, 2015

* Brazil: Twelve former Volkswagen workers in Brazil claimed that they were detained and tortured at one of the automaker’s factories during military rule from 1964 to 1985.

* South America: Venezuela may have reached a preliminary deal to try to quell a migratory crisis with western neighbor Colombia, yet the president of fellow bordering country Guyana blasted the “persistence of aggressive behavior” from the Maduro regime.

* Guatemala: Authorities detained three judges and seized the property of former President Otto Perez Molina as part of an investigation into widespread corruption and bribery.

* Puerto Rico: The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority reached a tentative agreement that could ease repayment of the company’s $700 million debt.

YouTube Source – AFP (A Brazilian Truth Commission last December found that 434 either died or went missing during the twenty-one year military dictatorship).

Online Sources – ABC News, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Time, Bloomberg

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Remembering an Ex-Pope's Anger in Nicaragua

Pope Francis today ended his latest to a Latin American country earlier today when he left Cuba following a four-day visit. During his time on the island, the Argentine pontiff emphasized messages of reconciliation and brotherhood among residents regardless of their ideological or political beliefs. His choice to steer away from commenting on the persecution of political dissidents and jailing of political prisoners was criticized by some members of the Cuban-American and Cuban exile community. (Though it remains to be seen if Francis during his first-ever visit to the U.S. will be more vocal on issues relating to human rights abuses in Cuba.)

Francis exercised caution in not blatantly speaking out against the Cuban government while on the island, but that stood in contrast to Pope John Paul II’s visit to Nicaragua in 1983. The Central American country was in the early years of a bloody armed conflict between the ruling Sandinista government and the rebel Contras. The war took its toll on the Nicaraguan Catholic Church that split between the hierarchy opposed to the Sandinista rulers and factions in favor of the government’s social and economic reforms.

Tensions between the sides was high in the days prior to the Pope’s visit but it was expected, as was written by one article at the time, that “the Pope will talk in relatively vague terms that both sides will try to use to best advantage.” As seen in the brief video clip below, that notion was put to rest upon his arrival when he publicly admonished Catholic priest and Minister of Culture Ernesto Cardenal:

Daily Headlines: September 22, 2015

* Mexico: Police and protesters in Mexico’s Guerrero state clashed days prior to the one-year anniversary of the disappearances of 43 college students.

* Cuba: Pope Francis ended his visit to Cuba with a call for family unity and reconciliation among the island’s residents.

* Brazil: Brazil’s currency sunk to a record low today amid an economy hampered by recession and rising inflation.

* Argentina: Daniel Scioli, the presidential candidate for the ruling coalition, said that he would continue the current regime’s legal battle against “vulture” debt holders.

YouTube Source – teleSUR English (“In an expression of mounting frustration with the lack of results in the official investigation into the enforced disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students, protests escalated in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero where the tragic events occurred.")

Online Sources – Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, GlobalPost, CNBC